‘Fairly Mummified’ Bodies Discovered In Colorado Forest Identified As Survivalist Family That Tried To Live ‘Off The Grid’

Published July 26, 2023
Updated July 28, 2023

The bodies were identified as Colorado Springs residents Christine Vance, 41, Rebecca Vance, 42, and Rebecca's 14-year-old son, whose name has not been made public.

Christine And Rebecca Vance

Trevala JaraA photo of Christine and Rebecca Vance taken before their move to the woods.

Two weeks after three “heavily decomposed” bodies were discovered at a remote camp in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the identities of the deceased have been discovered.

Gunnison County Coroner Michael Barnes recently released the identities of the deceased to the Colorado Sun. They were sisters Christine and Rebecca Vance, 41 and 42, respectively, and Rebecca’s 14-year-old son.

Barnes said the trio likely began camping in July 2022, roughly one year before their bodies were found. He attributed their deaths to malnutrition and “exposure to the elements” at a high altitude. He also noted that the harsh winter likely contributed to their deaths.

One family member told Barnes the trio had planned to “live off the grid” but didn’t know where they had gone.

The hiker discovered one of the bodies late on Sunday, July 9, and alerted police. After arriving at the campsite the next day, authorities found the other two bodies in a small, zipped-up tent. The other body was just outside the camp, which police say was in a remote, wooded area of the Gunnison National Forest near Gold Creek Campground, roughly 100 miles west of Colorado Springs.

“This is not a typical occurrence anywhere, by any means,” said Gunnison County Sheriff Adam Murdie. Murdie added that he does not believe the discovery implies that there is any risk to hikers or campers in the area. There were indicators at the camp to suggest the family had been living there for some time, including personal belongings, tarps, and a lean-to built from local logs over a firepit.

Gunnison National Forest

Wikimedia CommonsThe bodies were discovered at a remote campsite in the Gunnison National Forest.

“It was a significantly harsh winter for us this year, and it always is here,” Barnes said, “but we did have more snow than we have had in the past couple of winters.”

As Gunnison County Undersheriff Josh Ashe explained to CBS News that investigators “didn’t observe anything on-scene that makes us believe that there was crime involved in this.” They found no weapons nor any signs of violence.

Murdie said that based on the “fairly mummified” and advanced decomposition of the bodies, it’s likely that they had died at the camp sometime in winter, or possibly even the fall of 2022.

The sheriff also pointed out that it’s not uncommon for campers or hunters to die of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by using heaters in enclosed spaces. Given how remote the camp was, however, and how the bodies were spaced out, Murdie said he believes this is an entirely different set of circumstances.

“Whether they froze to death in the winter or the combination of starved or froze, that’s what it sure seems like,” Murdie said.

After reading about these tragic off-the-grid deaths, learn about California’s famous Slab City, where people go to live way off the grid. Or, read about when police discovered the mummified body of the Love Has Won cult leader, Amy Carlson.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Matt Crabtree
Matt Crabtree is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. A writer and editor based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Matt has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Utah State University and a passion for idiosyncratic news and stories that offer unique perspectives on the world, film, politics, and more.
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Harvey, Austin. "‘Fairly Mummified’ Bodies Discovered In Colorado Forest Identified As Survivalist Family That Tried To Live ‘Off The Grid’." AllThatsInteresting.com, July 26, 2023, https://allthatsinteresting.com/colorado-survivalists-mummified-bodies. Accessed May 26, 2024.